Obama plans to praise the proposals laid out Monday by an eight-member Senate working group, saying they reflect the core tenets of the administration’s immigration blueprint developed in 2011, a senior administration official said.
But the president’s remarks also are likely to emphasize differences that could foreshadow roadblocks to passage in Congress at a time when both parties say there is momentum for a comprehensive deal.
For example, the Senate proposal would let illegal immigrants obtain legal residency quickly. But it would not allow them to seek full citizenship until border security had been improved and a new system was in place for employers to verify the employment status of workers.
Obama will not endorse such a proposal, the administration official said. The president intends to make clear the need for a more straightforward route for undocumented workers and students to obtain citizenship, reflecting fears among advocates that a cumbersome process would create a decades-long wait for some migrants.
“We see the Senate principles as a centrist set of principles, but we expect the administration to be more detailed to the left,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a leading immigration advocacy group. “I don’t think it’ll be an immigration advocate’s dream, but it will be a solid left-of-center proposal.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney sought to close the gap between the White House and the Senate group during his daily briefing with reporters Monday, calling the Capitol Hill announcement “a big deal” because it includes a path to citizenship supported by four senators from each party. Similar provisions — opposed by many Republicans who think they would reward lawbreakers over those who come to the country legally — helped doom previous attempts to overhaul immigration in 2007 and 2010.
“This is in keeping with the principles the president has been espousing for a long time, in keeping with bipartisan efforts in the past and with the effort this president believes has to end in a law that he can sign,” Carney said.
He declined to say whether the White House objects to the proposal from the Senate group that would tie citizenship to border security and employment-verification measures. But he noted the administration’s focus on border-security issues, which included deporting nearly 410,000 immigrants in 2012, an all-time high.
The borders “have never been better enforced than they are now,” Carney said.